Figure 1: Proper heating and drying are important to producing quality ‘white copra’.
The first shipment of ‘white copra’ out of East New Britain in November shall pave the way for quality copra production at the same time generating interest in farmers from other copra producing provinces throughout Papua New Guinea.
In fact, this is just an enhancement to the domestic copra production in PNG as the Kokonas Indastri Koperesen or KIK embarks on empowering local farmers to be on par with their counterparts in South-East Asia where ‘white copra’ is now a profitable coconut product. If all goes well, PNG’s local copra producers will see a double compared to the traditional smoked copra which is often categorised at the world market as cheap ‘mixed grade’.
According to KIK’s business arm Coconut Resources Limited, this is largely due to poor handling and production methods. Consequently, this ‘mixed grade’ label ensures PNG’s copra is limited to producing cheap oil and cosmetics amidst an ever evolving international coconut product diversification.
However the KIK, Papua New Guinea’s sanctioned coconut industry regulatory body is hopeful of reviving the industry through this new outlook. It is time local copra farmers enjoy maximum benefit from a crop which has a special place in PNG’s history and pre-independence development.
Compared to the traditional black copra which is selling at a minimal 90t per kilo, the white copra price has the prospect of changing lives in PNG. The East New Britain provincial government confirms that despite KIK’s grand launching and recognition of this ‘improved copra’, there have been a few buyers that had tasted the sweet returns of ‘white copra’.
Hence East New Britain, Madang, Milne Bay, West New Britain, Bougainville and New Ireland; the only six copra producing provinces are highly encouraged by KIK to venture into this new product. Again, KIK believes this will restore the lost confidence in the coconut industry all the while raising PNG’s copra quality at the world market.
Coconut advocates and key industry players are using this to motivate farmers and producers to harness the ‘mighty coconut’s’ true value.
In fact the Coconut Resources Limited headed by respected coconut advocate Uron Salum is taking ‘white copra’ seriously. While welcoming local farmers and producers for the second phase of the training on Monday 26th of October, he told them the training is vital to uplift the quality of copra.
“White copra is something we have produced in the past however it seems it has fallen into the drain over the years.” Salum said the current price is determined by the quality of copra produced by PNG farmers however that could change if the quality is improved. “You can get a better price (for your copra) if the quality is good,” he said.
The desired outcome rests with local farmers and producers. “A few people cannot change the price of copra. We need a thousand tonnes of good copra before the price changes.” Currently Madang produces twenty to twenty-five thousand tonnes of copra – around half of what is acquired decades ago by an approximate five thousand plantation owners. But even the number of producers had declined dramatically.
For Madang where a good portion of the coastal population is reliant on copra, the quality of life is at stake if the true value of copra is not fully harnessed. Generally, ‘white copra’ requires diligence and best practices in copra production. Things like careful nut selection, proper and consistent heating and correct dryer ventilation are important contributors to achieving quality white copra.